Senator Chuck Grassley is Calling for SAMHSA Accountability in Oversight of Mental Health Programs
September 19, 2019
September 19, 2019
Senator Chuck Grassley (IA) sent a stinging letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, asking why HHS has not adopted recommendations from the Government Accountability Office and the department’s inspector general to improve accountability of SAMHSA’s mental health grants. Since 2015, there have been two GAO reports (Grantee Oversight / PAMI Oversight) that provide specific examples of a lack of oversight over the use of funding. The most recent audit gave SAMHSA failing marks for tracking and evaluating its grant programs. As of September 2016, SAMHSA had 188 outstanding audit recommendations from the HHS inspector general that had yet to be resolved. Among the many requests in the letter to Secretary Azar, Grassley asked for a list of grant programs aimed at preventing violence along with their purpose and how much funding each receives. He also requested metrics on the vetting of grantees and program performance and asked about HHS’s process for evaluating SAMHSA’s grantee awarding decisions, specifically for programs targeting people with serious mental illness. Senator Grassley has set a deadline of today, September 20 to receive the information.
Here is the list of questions that Senator Grassley is asking SAMHSA to respond to by today, September 20th:
Please provide a list of SAMHSA or other HHS grant programs and activities that proactively promote the violence prevention strategies suggested by NTAC [US Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center] (including, e.g., programs that support confidential behavioral health crisis lines, peer-to-peer crisis support services, crisis mobile teams, or initiatives to train school personnel, first responders, and leaders of faith-based communities on the development of systems for identifying and responding to individuals in crisis).
How does HHS currently evaluate SAMHSA’s decisions to award funding to programs targeting individuals with mental illness?
Has HHS ensured that SAMHSA implemented monthly reconciliations of its audit resolution records with the appropriate oversight offices, as recommended by the HHS OIG in its 2019 report? If not, please explain, and if so, please list the dates when the reconciliations were performed in the current calendar year as well as any related procedure(s) for identifying and completing unresolved audit recommendations.
According to the most recent report issued by the HHS OIG, SAMHSA had 188 outstanding audit recommendations as of September 30, 2016, which have yet to be resolved.
I sure hope the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee is paying attention to these questions as well. They have a required report due to Congress in 2020. Finding answers to these questions might help them in their ongoing quest to improve how federal government distributes funds to improve mental health services in America.
Stay tuned for an update on the Grassley request. We will do our best to get a hold of whatever documentation SAMHSA sends the Senator.
My passion is helping to shape policy and practice in children’s mental health. For the past 40 years, my journey as a mental health advocate has traveled from volunteering at a suicide and crisis center, professional roles as a therapist in an outpatient clinic, in-home family therapist, state mental health official, Board Chair for a county mental health program, and national reviewer of children’s mental health systems reform efforts. As the founder of the Children’s Mental Health Network (2009), I lead the Network’s efforts to grow a national online forum for the exchange of ideas on how to continually improve children’s mental health research, policy and practice.